Maxime Hamou, a professional tennis player from France, has been banned from the French Open after displaying bizarre and aggressive behavior with a TV reporter during a live interview. After the 21-year-old player was eliminated from the tournament in the first round, he was interviewed by Eurosport TV journalist Maly Thomas outside the Roland Garros stadium. The live spot began innocently enough, with Hamou laughing, but he quickly put his arm around Thomas and pulled her body in and kissed her on the side of the face, as he ignored her question — and she tried to pull away from him. Thomas, though, was unable to wrench herself from his grip and he managed to pull her in for a kiss on the neck a second time. Thomas remained poised and professional and the interview took a more normal tone for a brief moment. But Hamou pulled her in for a kiss third time, and then grabbed her by the neck and dragged her away from the camera as Thomas tried to push him away. Eventually, she broke his grip and pulled his arm from around her neck as the interview ended. Watch a clip of the incident further down.
The French Tennis Federation came down hard on Hamou, revoking his tournament credential “following his inappropriate behavior towards a female journalist,” the group said in a statement. Hamou’s disgraceful behavior also caught the attention of government officials. Newly-appointed Sports Minister Laura Flessel said, “A live assault is not funny. We should never let this happen, and never trivialize such acts.”
Cecile Duflot, a French MP, posted on Twitter about the incident, saying, “He kisses her by force, she tries to get away, he holds her by the neck and everyone … laughs #fatigue.”
— Cécile Duflot (@CecileDuflot) May 30, 2017
Thomas spoke about the exchange as well, and, not surprisingly, she had some blunt words about it. “If I hadn’t been live on air, I would have punched him,” Thomas told HuffPost France, according to a translation.
Eventually, Hamou posted an apology on his Instagram page. He said he allowed an “excess of enthusiasm express itself awkwardly toward Maly, who I know and sincerely respect.” Hamou, the world’s 287th ranked player, also offered to apologize in-person if Thomas so desired. Yeah, he probably shouldn’t hold his breath on that one.